Believe it ore not, Bathurst Mining Camp dates back 72 years

Posted on February 16, 2024 | By Alexander Chafe | 0 Comments


A photo of Brunswick No. 12 mine in 1957 (photo credit: Steven R. McCutcheon and James A. Walker, authors of Great Mining Camps of Canada 8. The Bathurst Mining Camp, New Brunswick, Part 2: Mining History and Contributions to Society, Geoscience Canada vol. 47 pp. 143-166)


One of Canada’s most historically significant mining districts, New Brunswick’s Bathurst Mining Camp was initially discovered over 70 years ago. What started with thesis research later resulted in 45 known mineral deposits and a dozen mines. While operations are currently on hold at the Bathurst mines, they’ve had an undeniably positive effect on local communities.

Initial discovery

Before the official discovery of the Bathurst camp, some iron mining was conducted in northern New Brunswick during WWI and WWII to provide feed for the steel mills in Sydney, Nova Scotia. While this material served its purpose during wartime, today’s standards would consider it low-grade iron formation. However, when UNB Geology student Ben Baldwin later examined samples from the area in the 1950s for his Master’s thesis, he identified lead, zinc and copper — precious minerals worth a closer look.

News eventually travelled to prospector Matthew James Boylen, who promptly purchased ground and began exploration. This led to the official discovery of the Brunswick No. 6 deposit in 1952, the first of many in the Bathurst Mining Camp district.


A table showcasing selected deposits of the Bathurst Mining Camp with production data and years of operation (photo credit: Steven R. McCutcheon and James A. Walker, authors of Great Mining Camps of Canada 8. The Bathurst Mining Camp, New Brunswick, Part 2: Mining History and Contributions to Society, Geoscience Canada vol. 47 pp. 143-166)


Further exploration

Once news of Boylen’s discovery went public, prospectors rushed to northern New Brunswick. In just under a year, mineral claims grew from a few thousand to over 41,000.

Throughout the ‘50s, 29 deposits were discovered, which account for the vast majority of known deposits in the Bathurst area today. In 1954, airborne electromagnetic surveying previously used to locate submarines was creatively utilized to identify the Heath Steele deposit. This was the first deposit in the world to be discovered by airborne electromagnetic survey.

However, the most significant of all discoveries was Brunswick No. 12 in 1953 (also found by Boylen and his team). Dr. James A. Walker, manager of the Geological Surveys Branch of New Brunswick’s Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development, says that a deposit as large and rich as Brunswick No. 12 is known as a “supergiant”.

Walker explains that “very few mineral deposits ever become mines because size, grade, metal prices and a host of other factors must be accounted for before an economically viable mine can commence.” Essentially, the amount and the current market price of minerals have to make economic sense to extract. Of 45 deposits discovered in the Bathurst area, about a dozen have been mined. Brunswick No. 12 was one of the largest and longest-operating mines across the globe. Throughout 49 years of operations, it produced 136,643,367 tonnes of ore valued at $670 million in 2012 (a year before production ceased in 2013).


The Caribou mine, which is located 55 kilometres from Bathurst City in northern New Brunswick (photo credit: Trevali Mining Corp)


Major impact

Today, operations are on hold in the Bathurst Mining Camp. Trevali Mining Corp was the latest miner in the area and went into receivership in 2023. However, Canadian Copper recently acquired the Murray Brook Deposit according to a press release on February 1, 2024. Walker says this is the largest known undeveloped sulphide resource in the Bathurst area, so it appears that more is soon to come.

Whatever the future holds, mining at Bathurst has had a major impact on northern New Brunswick, including opportunities for gainful employment, community development, improved living standards and much more over the past 72 years.

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